And Its Solution
IRD OF TRADE OF THE
CITY OF TORONTO
from the ^ ^ _ , _, _ • ,_ _ _
Memorial ^ . ^-.^ ..•_-,
The EDITH *W LORNE PIERCE
COLLECTION of CANADI ANA
Queens University at Kingston
CANADA'S CANAL PROBLEM
AND ITS SOLUTION
S to the importance to Canada of retaining the control of Commercial
traffic seeking its way to the world markets from the West
and North- West, by the route of the Great Lakes, there is practi-
cally unanimity of opinion in the Dominion. Canadians are agreed
that this is essential to our commercial independence, and that
without it even the preservation of the political union of the
Provinces and the maintenance of our position as an integral part
of the British Empire would become difficult to the verge of the
impossible. Dependence upon any other nation, however
friendly, for access to their own seaboard, is repugnant to any
self-respecting people, and would inevitably lead to commercial
subserviency — if not, indeed, to political capitulation. As to
the best way to ensure this commercial independence, however,
there is not the same unanimity of opinion. Yet even among
those who differ as to plans and projects there is almost entire
agreement that a Canadian waterway capable of carrying all the
grain of that part of the North- West which may be said to be
naturally tributary to the Great Lakes is absolutely essential.
The season during which the grain crop of our North- West Provide for
can be transported to the seaboard by water — from the end of
harvest to the close of navigation — is short, and the canal system
we must construct should, therefore, be as capacious as possible.
Again, inasmuch as the vessels that will carry this grain must
find employment in the carrying of other kinds of freight during
the rest of the summer, our canal system must be able to pass
through it any vessel that can profitably navigate the lakes;
anything less than that would not meet the requirements.
Our neighbors in the State of New York realize quite as clearly
as we do the importance of the control of the water-borne traffic
of the West and North- West, and with splendid and entirely
admirable energy they are doing all that nature will permit to
divert that trade into channels of their own. They are enlarging
and improving the Erie Canal, and, when completed, it will be
without exception the finest barge canal in the world. The
the Erie Canal.
barges using it will have a capacity of some 35,000 bushels of
wheat, and will afford a very cheap means of transportation, so
cheap that our present Welland-St. Lawrence Canals would be
utterly unable to compete with it. Even as compared with the
present 6-foot Erie Canal, navigated by barges scarcely one-
fourth the capacity of those that will ply in the New Erie, the
advantage which our 14-foot Welland-St. Lawrence system has
is so slight that a few years ago the imposition of a trivial toll of
one-half cent per bushel and an almost insignificant tonnage tax
turned the scale against us. As the cost of transportation by
the New Erie will be certainly not more than two-thirds the
present charge, it is evident that for Canada to stand still or even
to hesitate would be suicidal; for it must not be forgotten that
our rivals have and probably always will have a very substantial
advantage in cheaper ocean freights and lower insurance.
Must Provide jj. j s then, absolutely essential that Canada's canal system
Future. shall be able, by reason of its capacity and speed, to carry grain
to tide-water more cheaply and advantageously than will be pos-
sible by the New Erie. It is not necessary here to more than state
this, for as to it there is practical unanimity of Canadian public
opinion. As has been said, standing still or even delay would
for Canada be suicidal. The first would mean that not a bushel
of all the teeming harvests of the future North- West would find
its way to the world's markets by Canadian waterways or in
Canadian vessels. To hesitate would allow our neighbors to
obtain a commercial advantage that it would be difficult for us to
overcome — impossible to surmount entirely. The new Canadian
water-route must be in every way superior to the Erie, and it
must be completed as soon or nearly as soon. As the Erie will
be the best barge canal in the world, ours must be the best fresh-
water ship canal.
The Various Plans Proposed.
There are three projects proposed, and the Canadian people,
or the Government and Parliament acting for the people, must
choose between them. These projects are:
^Drov^m^t (1) To immediately deepen and enlarge, shorten and improve
Alone. the Welland Canal sufficiently to permit the passage from Lake
Erie to Lake Ontario, in the shortest time practicable, of the
largest vessels now navigating or likely to navigate the lakes.
(2) To do this and likewise to correspondingly improve the TifefvVel&nd-
St. Lawrence Canal system so as to allow the passage of these
vessels to Montreal without breaking bulk.
(3) To construct a 22-foot ship canal from the Georgian Bay The Georgkn
to Montreal by way of the French River, Lake Nipissing, and the
Mattawan and Ottawa Rivers.
All these schemes have their supporters and advocates; sec-
tional interests and the supposed advantages which would accrue
to certain localities influencing, to some extent, the arguments
and contentions of each. The matter ought not, however, to be
discussed in a sectional spirit. Certainly it should not be decided
except upon the highest national grounds. Whichever scheme
will most certainly, having proper regard to probable cost, ac-
complish the national and imperial objects aimed at, should be
adopted quite regardless of sectional demands. For Parliament
to decide the matter upon any lesser grounds would amount to a
betrayal of trust.
It is not necessary, perhaps, to discuss the first-mentioned
project at any great length. The immediate improvement of
the Welland Canal without a corresponding betterment of the
St. Lawrence system would no doubt prevent our neighbors from
obtaining a substantial advantage over us by reason of the early
completion of the Erie Canal. Possibly also it might meet the
requirements of North- West wheat transportation for some
years to come. Ocean-going vessels do not carry exclusive grain
cargoes, only taking partial cargoes when better-paying freight'
is not offered. Perhaps, then, grain stored in elevators at King-
ston or Prescott ready for prompt shipment to Montreal by barges
might be sufficiently convenient. At any rate, it may be said
with confidence that even without the improvement of the St.
Lawrence system our present 14-foot canals there would more
than hold their own in competition with any 12-foot barge
canals connecting Lake Ontario with the Erie system. But as a
permanent and final solution of Canada's Canal problem this
would be incomplete and ineffectual.
The Georgian Bay Canal project finds its strongest and most
earnest supporters in Montreal, in Ottawa, and along the proposed
route — perhaps it is not mis-stating in any degree to say that it
finds its only support there. For though it has been repeatedly
stated in Parliament that the Georgian Bay Canal is one of the
Support of the
"demands of the West,'* Mayor Hopewell of Ottawa is authority
for the statement that the deputation of Western farmers who
visited Ottawa some time ago almost to a man declared that they
wanted no Georgian Bay Canal. However, it is not of the first
importance to know who support or who oppose, or even what
may be the motive inspiring the support or opposition. The
consideration that should influence and decide is, What is best?
Claims Made for Georgian Bay Project.
Briefly and succinctly, but with sufficient exactness, the
claims put forward in support of the Georgian Bay route may be
stated as follows:
(a) It will be shorter than any other route — 282 miles less
than the Welland-St. Lawrence route, and 424 shorter than the
(b) It will be faster by from a day to a day and a half than the
present Welland-St. Lawrence route, besides having an enor-
mously greater carrying capacitjr.
(c) By damming certain rivers and creating certain reservoirs
at the summit, 540 cubic feet of water per second can be obtained,
sufficient to pass 24 vessels per day, or 5,040 per season, through
the canal, and by a further system of dams and reservoirs at an
additional expenditure of $900,000 an additional 700 cubic feet
per second can be obtained.
(d) By the construction of the canal one million horse power
can be developed, and this is valued at $5 per horse power, or
$5,000,000 per year!
(e) The canal can be completed and ready for navigation in
ten years from the time of commencement, at a cost of $100,000,-
( f ) The size of the lock chambers is to be 650 feet long by 65
feet wide, and the depth of water on the sills is to be 22 feet.
(g) The proposed route will be entirely within our own terri-
tory, and, in case of a war with the United States, free from danger
Georgian Bat Claims Analyzed.
These statements are in accord with the report of the Govern- mra have^irot 81 "
ment engineers, and the claims made are borne out by the report. Endorsed.
It is significant, however, that though the scheme has the endorse-
ment, as to its feasibility, of the three Government engineers, it
has not yet received the endorsement or approval of practical
vessel-men having experience of lake and canal navigation.
Assuming that all the calculations of the engineers are as Canada^ Canal
accurate as the data at their command would allow, and assuming Problem?
that all the claims are honestly made, it would still remain to be
determined whether this scheme would meet Canada's require-
ments and secure for the Dominion that position of supremacy
as regards lake, river and canal transportation which is our natural
right. To arrive at a correct answer to this question it will be
necessary to examine, seriatim, the claims above set forth in the
light of known facts and positive information.
(a) On the map the proposed canal is 282 miles shorter than Shorter on the
the Welland-St. Lawrence route; but is it commercially shorter? Commercially.
Will vessels using this route have a shorter or a longer distance
to cover, having regard to where they must secure return cargoes,
without which profitable freight carrying is not possible? With
the exception of package freight, comparatively little of which
would be obtainable at Montreal, and practically none along the
route of the canal, the only available cargo for grain-carrying
vessels is coal. Since coal as a rule is a dollar per ton dearer in
Montreal than at Lake Erie ports, it is evident that none would
be shipped by way of the proposed canal. Vessels using the route
would therefore have to return empty through the canal and go
down to some Lake Erie port for a return cargo. In other words,
the proposed canal, though geographically 282 miles shorter than
the Welland-St. Lawrence route, is commercially fully 1,300 miles
longer. What chance would vessels so handicapped have in
competition for the grain-carrying trade with rivals sailing direct
to Buffalo with assured return cargoes awaiting them?
(b) It will be as well, perhaps, to allow the engineers who
put forward this claim to give the answer to it:
With the advantage of shorter distance between terminal ^■ dl ? ltt ?^fe.^ )
harbors, it is computed that the route will be from one to one of Transit,
and a half days faster than any other existing water route,
under present conditions, from the head of the Great Lakes
would not meet
to an Ocean port, apart from having an enormous superiority
as to carrying capacity. But as compared with a possible
IMPROVED SYSTEM OF St. LAWRENCE CANALS TO A DEPTH OF
22 FEET, ASSUMING THAT THE NUMBER OF LOCKS WOULD BE
GREATLY REDUCED AND SOME OF THE CHANNELS WIDENED,
probably NO PRACTICAL BENEFIT IN TIME OF
TRANSIT COULD BE CLAIMED, the saving in dis-
tance BEING NEARLY OFFSET BY THE LONGER STRETCHES OF
LAKE AND WIDE RIVER NAVIGATION WHICH WOULD EXIST
THROUGH THE LAKE ERIE AND LAKE ONTARIO ROUTE, WHERE
HIGHER SPEEDS WOULD BE PERMISSIBLE.
— Page 2, Interim Report.
It is evident, then, upon the admission of the engineers who
put forward the claim of greater speed, that the route would be
not one minute faster than an improved Welland-St. Lawrence
route. Even the claim they make is founded upon the highly
problematical assumption that an average speed can be main-
tained greater by a mile an hour than in the Suez Canal, where
there are no locks, and half a mile greater than is practicable in
the Manchester Canal. Practical vessel-men, whose experience
in lake and river navigation entitles their opinions to weight, say
that an average speed of six miles per hour through such a channel
would be utterly impossible; that one-half or even one-third of
that speed would be all that could be maintained with any degree
of safety. When it is borne in mind that the proposed route
would be crooked and tortuous, with 120 curves, some of them
of three degrees, that a large part of the route would be canalized
river, requiring great care and caution, and that during a great
part of the season fogs are frequent on the course, it is at least
likely that the vessel-men rather than the engineers are right.
These practical men also say that it is very dangerous to run
vessels at night, and that the necessarily high insurance rates
would be a serious if not a prohibitive addition to the cost of navi-
gating such a canal.
(c) Assuming the calculations of the engineers to be correct,
the utmost possible capacity of the canal would be the passing
of 11,550 vessels in any season, and this when every available
drop of water has been brought into use. Now, 20,899 vessels
have passed through the Soo canals in one year, and the traffic
on the Great Lakes is still in its infancy: it is, therefore, evident
that the proposed canal would be utterly inadequate to transport
the freight that we may with reasonable confidence expect will
seek its way to the seaboard within a very few years.
(d) The horse power which it is estimated would be devel- po^ r Posaiblft
oped by the construction of the canal would be less by at least Development.
one-half than that which would be certainly developed by the
improvement of the St. Lawrence canals, while owing to prox-
imity to market the latter would have greater commercial value.
Commercially, it will be impossible to find a market for anything
like a million horse power in the projected Georgian Bay Canal
route for some generations. Niagara power companies, including
both sides of the river, are only producing to-day 300,000 horse-
power, which is distributed over a large section in Canada and
the United States.
(e) Practical men do not agree with the engineers that the J/I^gtrtctiSn 6
construction of such a canal would be possible in ten years, and
say it would probably take twenty, or possibly thirty; but,
assuming that the engineers are right, it is evident that even
then the work could not be completed until our neighbors would
have been given a six or seven years' monopoly of the water-
borne traffic. In view of Canada's past experience of the re-
lation borne by estimated cost to actual expenditure in the con-
struction of public works, the engineers' estimate of $100,000,000
does not inspire confidence.
(/) The estimated cost of the proposed canal is for a canal of Locks too Small
the dimensions stated, and the limited available supplyof water Requirements,
at the summit would make a larger one impracticable; but vessels
are now navigating the Great Lakes too large to pass through
such a canal, and the tendency is to build larger rather than
smaller vessels in the future.
(g) The claim made under this head is illusory to say the £* Illusory
i * ii Claim,
least, for the reason that, no matter what route may be chosen,
the important link at the Soo must necessarily be on the inter-
The Welland-St. Lawrence Route.
It now remains only to consider the improvement of the
Welland-St. Lawrence route; that is, the immediate deepening
and enlarging of the Welland Canal to allow of the passage through
it of the largest vessels now navigating or likely to navigate the
lakes; a corresponding improvement of the St. Lawrence canals
to follow immediately, or, if it be practical, to be carried out
These questions suggest themselves:
(1) Is such a commodious canal system practical?
(2) Is its cost reasonably within the sum that Canada may
wisely expend to ensure her independence in the matter of water
routes to her seaboard?
(3) Would it certainly ensure this independence?
(4) Would the national benefit from its construction and
maintenance be great enough to justify the expenditure of the
money it would cost?
Sound public policy demands that all these questions shall be
carefully and dispassionately considered. Canada has had a
sufficiency of public works constructed to appease sectional
clamor, to influence votes or to reward party service. Unless
this project can be justified upon the ground of national necessity,
and unless its business soundness can be shown, it ought not to
be undertaken. But if the questions propounded above can be
answered in the affirmative, Parliament ought not to hesitate,
but arrange for the immediate commencement and vigorous
prosecution of the work.
u r iTqSiona&e. Is the scneme a practical one? Though the engineers have
not finally reported, enough is known to make it certain that
there are no insuperable or even serious engineering difficulties
to overcome. The water supply is sufficient and inexhaustible.
The first question may be safely answered in the affirmative.
In the absence of the engineers' report the probable cost
cannot be stated with any degree of positiveness. It has, however,
been estimated that to deepen and improve the Welland Canal
so that it will not be a mere make-shift meeting only the needs of
» to-day or the near future, but a deep, safe, roomy waterway in-
suring Canada's supremacy for all time in the matter of water-
borne inland traffic, may cost from forty to fifty millions. It
should be the best fresh-water ship canal in the world, for it will
carry more commerce than any other excepting only the Soo
That this project would certainly ensure Canada's independent
control of her waterway to the seaboard is beyond question.
Every part of the route is either entirely within her own territory
or absolutely free to her use. Vessels with more than ten times
Cost would be
ly Insure our
the capacity of the barges that will ply on the New Erie will be
able to load at Fort William, Port Arthur, Duluth, or any northern
port, and pass directly to Montreal without breaking bulk, and
the cost of transportation will be so much less than by the Amer-
ican route that it will more than offset the advantage which that
route has in cheaper ocean freights and lower insurance charges.
It has been argued that the Americans could tap this route gjo^of Traffic^
at Oswego or Syracuse, and by the construction of a ship canal without
divert the trade to New York. Those who say this do not take
into account the fact that a Board of Engineers appointed by the
State of New York, after a careful and exhaustive examination
of the route, reported that such a scheme is impractical, and
that no greater depth than 1 2 feet can be maintained in the Hud-
son between Coxackie and the State dam at Troy. Their new
12-foot barge canal is, therefore, the last word our neighbors can
say. Indeed, so evident is it to them that the St. Lawrence
offers the only practical way from the Great Lakes to the sea for
vessels of deep draft (and their public men and engineers of
national repute have given the matter more earnest consideration ;
than it has obtained in Canada), that it has been proposed by
such men as Senator Townsend, Chairman of the Senate Com-
mittee on Coast and Insular Survey, and by General Bixby,
Chief of U.S. Army Engineers, that the United States Government
should offer to share with Canada the cost of deepening and en-
larging the route.
Optimists and pessimists will be wide apart in their answers
to the fourth question. The one will dream dreams of ocean
liners sailing the lakes, of the wheat of the North- West being car-
ried from Thunder Bay to Liverpool without trans-shipment, and
of every harbor on the lakes transformed into an ocean port;
the others will see nothing but failure and loss of the money in-
vested. I\ were better to be a dreamer than a croaker, perhaps,
but in this case it is better still to be neither. The question is a
business one, to be answered in a cool-headed, business-like way. E . . . ,
Cost and advantages' must bear a reasonable relation to each Probable Cost,
other in order to justify the construction of any public work.
As to cost, we have, as has already been said, no definite data as,
yet. The United States Senate Committee on Coast and Insular
Survey has estimated the cost at $150,000,000. As this estimate
provides for a complete waterway from the head of the lakes to
the sea, overcoming the St. Lawrence rapids by a series of ponds,
and deepening the lakes and harbors by dams at the foot or other-
wise, and as it contemplates the providing of such a waterway
that no further improvement will ever be necessary, the sum
named may not be excessive, and it is as well to consider the
Assuming, then, that the cost might reach this figure, what
advantages may fairly be placed on the other side of the sheet?
Although a large part of the future grain crop of the North-
West will doubtless find its way to market via Western railways
and the Panama Canal, and some perhaps by the Hudson Bay
Railway, an ever-increasing quantity will go by way of the Great
Lakes, and sound business reasons as well as proper political
and national considerations require that the largest possible
part of this shall pass through our own channels in Canadian
Some reference has already been made to the traffic which
passes through to the Soo canals, but it may not be amiss to
say here that although the lake traffic is still in its infancy the
number of vessels passing through the Soo canals is fully three
and a half times as great as the traffic through the Suez, and the
tonnage twice as much as the total entered and cleared at the
ports of Liverpool and London combined. As this enormous and
rapidly-increasing traffic is largely comprised of ores and other
raw products, it surely does not require to be demonstrated that
the deepening of the waterway from Lake Erie eastward would
be of immense advantage to the manufacturing towns of Ontario
Although for reasons already stated it is not likely or even
among the possibilities that grain-carrying vessels will ever ply
directly from the head of the lakes to Eureopean ports, yet were
this waterway constructed there can be no doubt that there would
be a great and increasing freight traffic in ocean-going vessels
from the Great Lakes to Europe and back. The effect of such
competition on railway freight rates was aptly summed up by
Senator Townsend thus: If the project were realized, the Inter-
state Commerce Commission would no longer have occasion to
pass upon railway rates from the middle West to the Atlantic-
water competition would keep them reasonable. The lessening
of cost of bringing coal to Lake Ontario ports and the consequent
reduction of prices at inland points would alone mean an enormous
saving to our people.
It is estimated by so eminent an authority as General Bixby, Value ofWater-
already mentioned, that by the improvement of the St. Lawrence me nt.
route from the head of the rapids to Montreal, from four to five
million horse power would be developed. Assuming that a
market would ultimately be found for one-half of this, or say
two million horse power, and that the price suggested by the
Georgian Bay engineers would be obtainable, this would more
than pay the interest on the entire cost even should it reach
The Sum of the Matter.
It seems clear that only by the deepening and improvement of
the complete Welland-St. Lawrence route can Canada assure to
herself her proper control of the water-borne traffic from the
Great Lakes to the seaboard.
That the immediate commencement of this work is necessary
to prevent the New Erie route obtaining an initial advantage
which it would be difficult for Canada to overcome, perhaps im-
That the national and commercial advantages of this route
will amply compensate for the cost, and that the water power
which would be developed is an important item to be considered.